Grave Moss & Stars

PBP Fridays: C is for Cycles in Nature, Cycles in Spirit

Kemet – ancient Egypt – had three seasons: the inundation (Akhet), from August to November, the growing season (Peret), from December to March, and the harvest season (Shomu), from April to July. (This is markedly different from modern Egypt’s seasons, now that the Nile is now controlled; for this post, I am only discussing ancient Egypt and her seasons.)

The Appalachian mountains, where I was born and raised, have four seasons, which are familiar to most North Americans: winter, spring, summer, and fall, all of roughly equal length but for winter, which usually runs a little long and steals time from spring and autumn. All the seasons are fairly wet: plenty of snow in the winter and frequent rains in spring and fall.

Texas, where I currently live, has five seasons, one of which repeats. In order, they are “winter” (almost always snowless), spring, summer, hotter’n hell (temperatures of 100*F+), summer again, and fall.

I’ve also lived in Nevada, which is a high-altitude desert (translation: snowy winters, but dry hot summers), and Colorado, which is between the Appalachians and Nevada in humidity and has fairly normative seasons.

In each place, I find myself adapting to the seasons and, consequentially, to how humans change their indoor habitats to balance out the seasons. (Let me tell you how cold it is in every Texas building in summer; I have to bring my hoodie!) I have, in fact, gotten to the place where there is something I enjoy and value about each season, so I am capable of delighting in the current season while simultaneously pining for the next.

But what about spiritual cycles to match the natural ones around us, and what happens when they don’t match up? After all, as a pagan, I purposefully and subconsciously attune myself to the state of the land that envelopes me.

Yet, as a Kemetic, I follow the ancient Egyptian calendar for Kemetic festivals and holidays. Of course, these festivals match up to Kemet’s three seasons and all the associations thereof. When we plant our Appalachian farms, Kemet is harvesting crops. When I am praying for snow in a tepid Texas winter, Kemet’s banks are flowering greenly. When I am awash in suffocating temperatures and near-nightly epic thunderstorms, Kemet holds her dry breath, waiting for the Nile to flood and bless the land.

Contradictions much?

Before I was a Kemetic, my spiritual-seasonal cycle was simpler. The forest, the desert, the mountains, the endless sky– the varying temperatures and humidities and precipitation– I feel them, I grok them, and some pieces of my body and spirit shift and lean to match. It is an organic thing, an instinctive thing, a reflexive thing – a dance that I find hard to describe in words, other than to say this human animal has not forgotten its place in the natural world and can still feel the rightness of living immersively.

But what a challenge, to feel my flesh and psyche adjust to and accommodate the season around me, yet knowing that my chosen faith is experiencing a wholly different season and set of associations to match! To make it even more interesting, the Kemetic calendar does include lunar cycles and solstices, making my beloved Yule still important and valid… even if it’s the beginning of the growing season for ancient Egypt when I celebrate it.

So how can I knit the seasons of the land with the seasons of my Kemetic spirit? The Nile would flood, bringing life to the land, as Texas reaches its peak heat, driving everyone indoors to avoid heatstroke. Ancient Egyptians would begin planting their fertile fields as we enter into the winter holiday season, whose snowy scenery is iconic. The Kemetic harvest coincides with this land enthusiastically flowering and warming. What connections can I draw between my home and my faith’s homeland?

Well, with the Texas summer comes a bevy of thunderstorms, and in thunderstorms, as in the overwhelming humid heat, I find Ma’ahes. Texas is drenched from the sky as ancient Egypt was drenched by the Nile, and both lands are bathed clean, refreshed, renewed. And Ma’ahes is in the torrential storms as He is in the dry orange desert, a divine link between greening Texas and the flooded Black Land.

When the Kemetic growing season rolls around, my sun has died at Samhain, and I am preparing to welcome back the light at winter solstice and, hopefully, spend a lot of time with family and loved ones. As my body and the local land settle closer to hibernation, breathing softly in tandem, my heart and Kemet are receptive to new life. It is not so hard to conflate the beginning of winter’s quiet with a spiritual growth, the chilly stillness with sowing sacred seeds.

And lastly, I reap the fruits of my long winter after the first light of spring – taking stock of what I have done, created, and learned during the quiet time of colder weather and processing it appropriately. Harvesting, sorting, and storing the new in preparation for the cleansing of the inundation, of the Texas summer storms, of Ma’ahes’ peak presence.

Come inundation is the Kemetic new year, Wep Ronpet in early August; the world is licked clean by Nile and sky, ready for the hopes and intentions of a new cycle. And so it begins again, this strange waltz of Kemetic soul and North American soil.

This post brought to you by the Pagan Blog Project.

Last year’s first C post was on Cernunnos.